James Mueller


Jim Mueller is an industrial designer with more than 20 years of experience in assistive technology, disability management, and universal design. He is recognized as one of the most experienced practitioners and advocates of universal design – design for people of all ages and abilities – and is one of the authors of the 7 Principles of Universal Design. His clients have included Federal and State agencies, private employers, disability insurers, and product manufacturers.

Since 1974, Jim has served as a consultant to employers, product manufacturers, and rehabilitation research centers, as well as a designer/fabricator of hundreds of workplace and home modifications for individuals with disabilities. His design projects have included a Technical Support Facility for a rehabilitation center, concealed head protection for seizure-prone individuals, a portable, wheelchair-accessible miniature golf course for an elementary school, and an experimental electric wheelchair for testing seating and lightweight frame design. He has also consulted on the design of business furniture, personal computers, and telecommunications products.

Jim holds a Bachelor of Industrial Design degree from Syracuse University and Master of Arts degree from The George Washington University. His consulting firm, J.L. Mueller, Inc., is located in Chantilly, Virginia, about halfway between Washington, DC and the Blue Ridge Mountains and 850 miles east of his hometown of St. Louis.

From 1974 to 1982, Jim served as Research Scientist at the George Washington University Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on a funded project to study the ergonomics of disabilities. His responsibilities included assessment, design, fabrication, and evaluation of assistive devices for children and adults with disabilities. These devices were shown to dramatically increase functional independence with minimal expense and dependence on complex technology. This project culminated in the publication of two resources on environmental design for people with disabilities, Designing for Functional Limitations and Accommodating the Disabled Student. He also participated in the development of print and video resources to assist employers in accommodating employees with disabilities.

In 1982, Jim established his disability management consulting firm to put this successful research into practice by assisting employers in hiring and retaining workers with disabilities. He incorporated this experience into the illustrated guides to job accommodation, The Workplace Workbook in 1990 and Workplace Workbook 2.0 in 1992.

Since 1993, Jim has served as a consultant to North Carolina State University’s Center for Universal Design, participating in the creation of the 7 Principles of Universal Design in 1997. Since 2001, Jim has also served as a Project Director for the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Wireless Technologies in Atlanta, GA. As a member of the Accessibility Forum, Jim is active in the development of testing procedures for the implementation of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act Amendments.

Jim regularly presents his work in local, regional, and national conferences of rehabilitation professionals, designers, facility managers, and people with disabilities. He also conducts training programs for private businesses and public agencies on the subjects of disability management, job accommodation, and Universal Design. He has produced several books and videotapes on the subjects of assistive technology, disability management, and universal design and has contributed to teaching publications and journals by Design Management Institute, Harvard Business School, and Industrial Designers Society of America.

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Universal Design (UD) is an approach to design that increases the potential for developing a better quality of life for a wide range of individuals. It is a design process that enables and empowers a diverse population by improving human performance, health and wellness, and social participation (Steinfeld and Maisel, 2012). It creates products, systems, and environments to be as usable as possible by as many people as possible regardless of age, ability or situation.